How do you observe the anniversary of the death of your cousin?
This is a question I have asked myself the past few days. Twenty years ago my oldest cousin, Mark, was killed in a car accident on the way home from a family reunion. My Aunt Karen was driving, and my cousin, Jeanne, was in the car. A deer ran out onto the road and my aunt had no choice but to hit it. My cousin, Mark, was killed instantly. My cousin, Jeanne, was thrown out onto the road. Her knee was severely injured, and her face had a significant amount of road rash, but considering how far she was thrown, her injuries were minor.
At 11pm the night of the accident, July 14, 1990, I was hanging out with my friends, Sara and Michelle. We had just ordered pizza. I was 13 days away from moving to Utah to start at BYU that Fall so we were trying to spend as much time as possible together. For some reason, I felt like I needed to go home. There was no real reason. Metallica's "One" was playing on the radio, which I will always remember. I walked in the door, and the phone rang. It was my Aunt Donna, who asked for my mom. I handed the phone over to her, and then heard her gasp.
The following 48 hours were a blur. I got my mom ready to fly up to Utah, and later my aunt and uncle came over to pick me up so that I could drive up with them. That morning after my mom left, I remember losing it, and just sobbing uncontrollably. My Stake President (and former Bishop) knocked on the door with a copy of the hymn "Come, Come Ye Saints." He had ditched church to come be with me while I cried.
That afternoon I got a phone call at my aunt and uncle's house. It was Jeanne, calling from the hospital, asking when I would get there. She doesn't remember it. She doesn't remember that week much at all, which is a good thing. I told her I would get there as soon as I could. I spent that week being in charge of Jeanne, which solidified an already strong bond from childhood.
We learned many things during the course of the week about the strength of our family. It was a week of sorrow, and a week of miracles. It changed everything for me. Twenty years later I am still more grateful for family than I was before the accident. I am close to all of my cousins - closer than I would have been had it not happened.
Today was an ordinary day. I met a friend for lunch, and we spent the afternoon talking while our kids swam in the pool. I am going to spend a few minutes tonight telling my children about Mark. How he always had his nose in a book. How one time after his mission he had to ask me how to say "door" in English because he was saying it over and over in Spanish. How he wanted me to set him up with all of my friends in college. I will tell them how important it is to always say "I love you" to the people you love, because they might not be here tomorrow. I will tell them that I love them, give them hugs and kisses, and put them to bed. And maybe shed a tear that I didn't get the chance to know Mark as an adult. I bet we would have been close.